Wiring the house with Ethernet


Cat 6?

Or Cat 7 :wink:

I‘ll ask the electrician tomorrow and let you know. When he inspected the house to get an idea about the feasibility of hard-wiring he muttered something like Cat 7, but he sounded vague. Will know definitely tomorrow.

It’s worth understanding the differences between Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7 and UTP (unshielded twisted pair) versus shielding that is connected to the plugs. Transmission of digital sound generally doesn’t require the higher speeds that 6a and 7 were designed for, but those speeds can be useful for other data transmissions. The biggest (possible) tradeoff is between the benefits of maximum shielding and the possibility that the shielding can cause grounds loops or other ways for noise to travel from one piece of equipment to another. See for example the following Quote from Roon’s own COO, Danny Dulai: “The claim here is not that the digital bits on the cable (via the Ethernet frames -> IP frames -> TCP packets) are being altered. The claim, especially in regards to ground loops, is that the ethernet cable is connecting the ground of power going into the switch and the ground of the power going into the device. Thus, you have a system that has “2 grounds”. It is then further claimed that these ground loops, using the hardware given, produce a notable hum or degradation of quality in the D->A conversion, or even later in the chain in analog.” from the following thread: Validity of “audiophile” ethernet cables .

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Thanks for the explanation! Now that you mention, I remember him saying he’ll wire with UTP cable. So that means that no ground loops will be generated by using UTP cable? But then also, isn’t UTP divided into various categories, in other words, could a UTP cable also be Cat 6/6a/7? Or is this reserved only for shielded cables?

I use cat5e with no issues…


Ditto. And I have no immediate plans to move to 10GbE.

Yep, unless you have a specific need (which most home users do not), there is no need for anything other than good ol’ Cat 5e. Sadly, putting in a higher level could actually be inviting potential issues.

Take a quick peak at this page, it might answer some of your questions.

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It’s my understanding that the short distances normally covered by ethernet wiring in most residences get you 1Gb, or close to it, from cat5e. I guess the quality of the terminations also has an effect on that? I wired with cat6, but not for music - Gb internet is coming to my town, so I wanted to be ready and sure.

There are devices out there that purport to help ethernet connections avoid audio problems. There’s even an “audiophile” router/network switch about to be released. Some of those devices are cheap enough that you could experiment with them in your system and recover most of your money by selling them down the road if they make no difference.

I think you would be better off spending that money on the acoustics of your listening room or (depending on your gear) better gear. Sow’s ears and silk purses and so on…

So you’re saying we should use UTP cables (unshielded twisted pair) instead of shielded Cat7 (or 6 or 5e) for audio?

Yes. Shielded cables need a proper drain to ground. Most folks will NOT have that in a residential setup. Protip: If you’re just running the cables point-to-point between devices, you do NOT have a proper drain. (In the Enterprise world, this is part of the structured cabling infrastructure.) Without a proper drain, the shield actually becomes an antenna, doing the opposite of what it is supposed to protect against.

Shielded cable is also largely unnecessary in ANY environment, save for industrial applications where you have cable running near sources of extreme EMI (like arcwelders or other industrial equipment). For residential usage, particularly considering most residential runs are fairly short distances (a few tens of meters, max) and are never subject to devices emitting high amounts of EMI, shielded cable will cause more problems than it solves.

Also, there is no reason to go nuts on the CAT level, either. It will have ZERO impact on sound quality. CAT 5e supports up to 1GBit/s at 100m. CAT 6 supports up to 10GBit/s at ~55meters (as well as 1GBit/s up to 100m), CAT 6a supports up to 10GBit/s at 100m. CAT 7 and above is pure marketing, there is no real-world use case for it (all the actual use cases switch to fibre beyond CAT 6a). If all you are running is 1GBit/s, you will NEVER need anything more than CAT 5e, and the higher CAT cables will do NOTHING for. That said, CAT6 is in many cases the new lowest common denominator now, with the bulk cable costing near enough the same as CAT 5e that people just install it anyway to futureproof in case they ever do move up to 10GBit/s Ethernet links.


There are differences in the RJ-45 design for Cat-6 from cat5/5e too…the 6 being an up/down layout and the 5 and below along one level

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I guess you never know what the future holds and you only want to tear your house up once - so there’s a common sense logic for using something with a bit of future-proofing; network speeds aren’t going to go down.

That said I didn’t have much time to think when I renovated and ran 5e. It does lots besides audio and never had an issue - more important is getting enough sockets in all the useful places and thinking about what other services you want in the space the patch panel ends up. If I did it again I’d leave extra cables loose in ceilings etc just incase. You can never have too many bases covered. If I did it now I’d probably put a fibre to every room at least just to be done.

I very much doubt you get a true throughput of even 1gb on any cheap domestic switch even using just one port. But the ooobt is it’s largely irrelevant for day to day use even moving lots of data. Certainly it’s barely relevant for audio, unless maybe youre an upsampling obsessive. :slight_smile:


Currently I use mostly Furutech Cat6 cable, pretty simple and inexpensive. But I do have some UTP (even less expensive!) lying around somewhere; hadn’t thought about it till now, but will definitely give it a try.

I ran one cable to each room and decided to use a switch in each room that had more than one ethernet device. Using switches has turned out to be a bit of a pain in the ass, but I’m not sure if running multiple cables would have been less of a pain in the ass. Is there a performance issue (even if small) with having multiple switches throughout the house?

Not really unless you’re saturating the underlying cable - obviously depends on how much data you’re moving.

The main disadvantage is just that a switch doesn’t help you with having the cable at the right place and may require tricky cable runs in the room - I still have that even with multiples. Plus it’s more unnecessary hardware and powered devices, which bothers me for many reasons including environmental…